Memorial Archives

Road Trip Ends On A Winning Note - Senators 5, Capitals 2
posted Mar 12, 2006 at 11:47PM

Well I have to tell you that the novelty of catching the game on radio is really starting to wear thin. With seven goals, the game was probably quite enjoyable to watch. I must admit, that in comparison to the Atlanta game, it seemed to be a bit of a dreary affair.

In the end we got the two points. It sounds like we won handily without having to put forth too much exertion, potting five goals on a goalie I think is the most over-rated in the league. Emery sounds to have put in another solid performance. All he needs now is a few good games against higher ranked teams to really cement his claim to being our future number one.

Another big positive was Neil breaking his scoring drought. Neil's play has been better than his lack of scoring has indicated, so hopefully this goal will help move some universal tumblers into his favor.

Ominous. Looking at the highlights showed that both of their goals were preceded by our defencemen being "weak on the puck". Except for the Atlanta game this has been a too frequent occurrence. Defencemen coughing up the puck has been a bane for us in the play-offs (think Salo, think Redden) and they have got to improve in this area going forward.

More Ominous. The officiating is again looking to revert to bad old clutch and grab days. It is not so much the calls against Ottawa that hurt. It is the non-calls against the opposing team. They are allowed to hold, slew foot, cross check and obstruct players who don't even have the puck, allowing them to press their defense with no restraint. For speed teams like Ottawa, it is like pushing against a marshmallow, and puts untalented grinder teams (aka Toronto) on an equal footing.

Glaring Unresolved Weakness. The fourth line continues to be a sore point for me. I don't like the combination Varada-Kelly-Vermette any more than the combination of Varada-Kelly-Eaves.

At least in the latter trio, Eaves is playing his natural position. With Vermette, not only is he not playing his natural position of center, he is playing on his wrong wing. Kelly, a natural winger continues to struggle at the centreman's position.. What we are left with is Varada, whose main strength is digging pucks up, being the one set up in front of the net with opportunities he cannot capitalize on. What makes me angry is that this situation is totally unnecessary.

Commentary on commentary. I must admit sometimes I find that the so called "expert" commentary by our color guys to border on inept: highly superficial, and overfilled with cliches and bromides. Hey for a hundred grand a year I can say "throw the puck at the net" with the best of them. As well, there is this seeming inability to look at things from a big picture strategic view, and/or to infer way too much importance from single incidents.

Today held a classic example.

Eaves was placed on the line with Spezza and Heatley. He got a really nice goal-scorer's goal on a rebound in front of the net. The color guy starts waxing poetic, stating how this line "really works" and how over the next 20 games Murray would keep him on the top line and maybe other top six roles in preparation for the playoffs. This is a ludricous, and indeed, dangerous path to take.

Look don't get me wrong. I like Eaves. I have big plans for Eaves. But to suggest that he is a one for one replacement for Alfredson is simply smoking dope. There is no one on the team that can complement Spezza and Heatley the way Alfredson does. There are maybe a handful of players in the league who could, and Eaves is not one of them.

Consider the previous game which had Vermette in that same role. Only an outstanding save by the Atlanta goalie kept Vermette from scoring. And only another outstanding save kept Heatley and Spezza from scoring on a two on one. Today against Washington those opportunities went in. But if they had scored against Atlanta, does anyone really think that Vermette was ready to replace Alfredson?!! Of course not. I think the world of Vermette. Indeed he has more goals than Eaves even though he has had poorer ice qualtiy. But he is no Alfredson, and never will be an Alfredson.

What was also not mentioned, is the fact by putting Eaves up on right wing, Murray then forces Heatley on to his wrong wing. In effect, this takes away Heatley's one timer, a primary weapon in his arsenal, out of the mix. How many goals has Heatley scored on his one-timers? Are you going to risk losing all of those goals to adjust for a Eaves or a Vermette....indeed for anybody? An upcoming major analysis piece will contain a number of high profile examples of how putting even the most skilled players on their off wing inevitably causes disastrous results for a player's offensive production

The blunt reality is that the one line combination change that would have the most dramatic impact on team performance, is the one line combination that Murray has failed to try, and that is the Kid Line.

Put Vermette in his natural position as center. Put Kelly in his natural position as left wing. Put Eaves in his natural position as right wing. Play them together!

I have no doubts whatsoever that if this line had been together for the season, Vermette would not have just 15 goals but easily in excess of 20. Eaves would not just have 13 goals but would easily be in excess of 20. I don't know how many goals Kelly would have, but I can assure you that his scoring efficiency factors would no longer be comparable to McGrattan's.

To have a fourth line that has this kind of scoring potential, not just for the playoffs, but for years to come, and not use them, borders on criminal negligence.

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